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New plate change still licence to thrill

PUBLISHED: 13:49 24 February 2018 | UPDATED: 13:49 24 February 2018

Theres still something exciting about the new registration  its 18-plate on March 1. Picture: SsangYong

Theres still something exciting about the new registration  its 18-plate on March 1. Picture: SsangYong


It’s an exciting time of year with spring in the air but, more importantly for motoring editor Andy Russell, it’s the new registration plate and Geneva Motor Show.

I love this time of year. The evenings are pulling out, there’s warmth in the sun on the days it shows its face against blue skies, plants are budding back into life and spring is waiting in the wings.

All well and good but, for me, the biggest attractions at this time of year are the new registration plate, which hits the road on March 1 – so next Thursday, and the Geneva Motor Show which opens a week later.

They’re key events in the motoring year but it’s not even as though I am picking up a new car or going to the Swiss city for its 88th International Motor Show, considered to be one of the world’s most important for its dazzling debuts, praiseworthy premieres and razzamatazz reveals.

I look forward to the show’s build-up as car manufacturers give glamorous glimpses of new models’ lights, wheels and sculpted styling to tantalise the tastebuds.

Unfortunately, the downside of the Geneva motor show, or any other one for that matter, is that exciting concepts, which whet the appetite, often end up watered down and, by the time they reach the market, have lost much of their flavour for excitement.

But first, March 1 – traditionally the biggest month of the year accounting for around a fifth of the year’s registrations – and the new 18-plate.

Forty years after passing my driving test, and nearly three decades of motoring journalism, and I still get excited and look forward to seeing the first vehicles bearing the new plate on the road. I even get excited about driving the first new plate test car even if it’s two or three months after March 1 or September 1, the other plate change month.

The new plate is not such a special occasion as it was when it changed only once a year in August and you drive a ‘new’ car for up to 12 months rather than six.

In recent years, I seem to have seen fewer new plate cars on the road on the launch day, or even launch week, but I can only put that down to more motorists having personalised plates and transferring them to their next vehicle. Perhaps there’s market for some kind of bumper sticker or pennant, like those World Cup football flags or Christmas reindeer antlers people clip on the top of the door windows, to declare it is a new car!

I remember garages opening at midnight so people could collect their new car as soon as the date changed, or having it delivered to home on trade plates so it was ready on the driveway as soon as they could legally drive it.

I was amazed this week to learn a work colleague is not going to pick up her 18-plate car until March 2 because she’s too busy on March 1.

Hello, I’ll pick it up for you – that would make this sad old man very happy!

Do you get excited about the new registration plate or have you made special arrangements to collect your new 18-plate vehicle? Email

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